Arecaceae

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Description: Arecaceae have leaves that are simple, or pinnately or palmately compound, always with strongly parallel venation. They are trees or shrubs with unbranched trunks (sometimes acaulescent, i.e., stemless), and one (Desmoncus) is a liana. They can be confused with cyclanths, but there are easy ways to tell the families apart (see the description of Cyclanthaceae). Arecaceae are an important component of tropical forests worldwide. In old-growth forests of the Zona Norte, palms are common in both the understory and the canopy.

Economic uses: Palms are used for construction material throughout the tropics, both as thatch and as structural timbers. The dense wood of the stilt palms Iriartea deltiodea and Socratea exorrhiza is used in the construction of balsa rafts in the Amazon: sharpened stakes of palm wood are driven through the soft balsa logs (Ochroma pyramidale, Bombacaceae) to fasten them together. Palms are also an important source of food, both for their fruit and for their soft apical meristems (heart of palm, or palmito). Many palm fruits are a crucial source of oil in the generally low-fat diets of native people, both in Africa and the Neotropics. Coconuts (Cocos nucifera), as well as edible fruit, provide chemicals that are used in the manufacture of products ranging from soap to industrial lubricants.


Descripción: Las Arecaceas tienen hojas simples o compuestas, palmadas o pinnadas, siempre con las venas paralelas. Son árboles o arbustos con troncos no ramificados (a veces sin troncos), y un género (Desmoncus) es un bejuco. Las palmas se puede confundir con las Cyclanthaceas, pero hay unas características que se puede usar para distinguirlas fácilmente (vea la descripción para las Cyclanthaceas). Las Arecaceas son un componente muy importante en los bosques tropicales de todo el mundo. En bosques madurosde la Zona Norte, las palmas son comunes tanto en el sotobosque como en el dosel.

Usos económicos: En las zonas tropicales de todo el mundo, las palmas se usaron tradicionalmente para construir casas y techos de paja. La madera densa de las “palmas que caminan,” Iriartea deltiodea y Socratea exorrhiza, se usa en Amazonas para fijar los palos de balsas: se martillan estacas afiladas de la madera de palma a través de la madera suave de la balsa (Ochroma pyramidale, Bombacaceae) para unir los palos. Además, las palmas son fuentes importantes de alimento. Se come la zona meristemática (palmito), y también los frutos. Muchos frutos de palmas son una fuente imprescindible de grasa en las dietas de los nativos en Africa y la zona neotropical, que muchas veces carece de grasa. El coco (Cocos nucifera) es comestible y también provee quimicos que se usan para elaborar jabón, lubricantes industriales, y otros productos.


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